Grasshopper Jungle A History by Andrew Smith

Link to this review in the form of a comic strip by geneambaum tagged coming of agescience fiction

Unshelved comic strip for 9/26/2014

@bookblrb: Austin Szerba explains how he and his best friend Robby accidentally started the apocalypse in Ealing, Iowa.

Teen Spirit by Francesca Lia Block

Link to this review by danritchie tagged coming of ageparanormal

Seventeen-year-old Julie’s life changed completely one afternoon when her grandmother, Miriam, died in her arms. Miriam was Julie’s confidant and advisor, the one person she could always talk to and learn from.

At the beginning of her senior year in a new school, she meets Clark. He fills a need in Julie for someone to talk to and he seems to have an uncanny empathy for her. When Julie finds an old Ouija board in her room, she and a skeptical Clark try to summon her grandmother. What they get instead is the spirit of Clark’s dead twin, Grant, who is determined to return to the living in Clark’s body.

Why I picked it up: The cover caught my eye since its design is much like the old fashioned Ouija board.

Why I finished it: Julie and Clark’s budding relationship has some intriguing aspects. She longs for contact with her grandmother’s spirit, but he is terrified of the idea. She is scared of Grant and his determination to live again, yet is strongly attracted to him when he possesses Clark. Clark is torn between wanting his brother gone and wishing he could stay (just not in his body). Clark becomes a reluctant ally in Julie’s quest to contact Miriam, but first she has to find a way to strengthen Clark’s spirit and free him from Grant before the possession becomes permanent.

It's perfect for: Indie, my young friend who shops exclusively in second hand shops, because Julie’s wardrobe is primarily her grandmother’s: hand-me-down marcasite hoop earrings, sequin-covered circle skirts, paisley print scarves, cameo rings, and taffeta dresses from the forties and fifties. She will enjoy Clark’s penchant for unusual hats.

@bookblrb: Julie and Clark try to summon her grandmother with a Ouijia board, but instead summon Clark’s dead twin.

Floating Boy and the Girl Who Couldn't Fly by P. T. Jones (Stephen Graham Jones and Paul Tremblay)

Things Mary doesn’t want to fall into: the river, high school, her mother’s life.

Things Mary does kind of want to fall into: love, the sky.

This is the story of a girl who sees a boy float away one fine day. This is the story of the girl who reaches up for that boy with her hand and with her heart. This is the story of a girl who takes on the army to save a town, who goes toe-to-toe with a mad scientist, who has to fight a plague to save her family. This is the story of a girl who would give anything to get to babysit her baby brother one more time. If she could just find him.

It’s all up in the air for now, though, and falling fast. . . .

Fun, breathlessly exciting, and full of heart, Floating Boy and the Girl Who Couldn’t Fly is an unforgettable ride.

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The Geography of You and Me by Jennifer E. Smith

Link to this review by wally tagged coming of ageromance

Lucy is a bit of a loner in New York City; her brothers have moved away and her parents are always flying off to Europe. Owen just moved to New York with his father, who is now the superintendent of Lucy's building. One day, Lucy and Owen find themselves stuck in the elevator of their building when the power goes out across the city. They are freed hours later, but with the city still blacked out, they explore the city in one magical night. Soon Lucy goes to Edinburgh to be with her parents, while Owen and his dad move west. Lucy sends Owen emails that he often cannot answer, and he sends her postcards.

Why I picked it up: I'd heard good things about this author and her other novels, and I was in the mood for a little romance.

Why I finished it: It's certainly a solid teen romance, but I really got pulled in by the characters and how their friendship was managed (and mismanaged) via emails and postcards. Their lives pulled them apart by ever-greater distances, and this put a strain on them both, but in the end, they manage to meet again.

It's perfect for: Rebecca, who would love the details about all the different places Lucy and Owen visit, including Paris, Tahoe, and Seattle. A homebody herself, she'd be intrigued by how they try to make new places feel like home.

@bookblrb: Lucy and Owen are stuck in an elevator during a blackout. After that magical night they try to stay in touch.

The Door in the Mountain by Caitlin Sweet


Lost in time, shrouded in dark myths of blood and magic, The Door in the Mountain leads to the world of ancient Crete: a place where a beautiful, bitter young princess named Ariadne schemes to imprison her godmarked half-brother deep in the heart of a mountain maze, where a boy named Icarus tries, and fails, to fly—and where a slave girl changes the paths of all their lives forever.

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The Panopticon by Jenni Fagan

Link to this review by wally tagged coming of agescience fiction

After beating a policewoman into a coma, Anais Hendricks is sent to the Panopticon, a prison that’s been made into a housing unit for troubled Scottish teens. She makes friends and enemies, and finally becomes determined to live her life as she wants to, no matter where that takes her.

Why I picked it up: I picked this up a little reluctantly thinking it was another YA dystopian novel, but a few pages in and I knew I was dealing with a completely realistic (if sometimes fantastic) tale of a girl who wants her freedom.

Why I finished it: Anais tells her own tale, and her voice ranges from profane rage to lyrical sweetness, sometimes within the span of a sentence.  She describes everything that happens to her, no matter how awful or hallucinatory, in a matter-of-fact tone that relates exactly how she feels. Her voice is clear even when she is not. The language makes it easy to see why Fagan is a poet. I could not put this book down.

Readalikes: It’s a mashup of A Clockwork Orange for the way the police and social workers treat Anais, One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest for the intimate look at the inmates' lives, both in and out of the Panopticon, 1984 for the heavy-handed approach of the authorities who don't know what to do with a free spirit, with a dose of Trainspotting for Anais' continual and variable drug use, both in and out of the Panopticon.

@bookblrb: Anais is sent to a futuristic prison for troubled Scottish teens after beating a policewoman.

I'm Glad I Did by Cynthia Weil

Mad Men meets Nashville in this debut mystery set in 1963, written by Grammy winner and Rock and Roll Hall of Famer Cynthia Weil.

It’s the summer of 1963 and JJ Green is a born songwriter—which is a major problem, considering that her family considers the music business a cesspool of lowlifes and hustlers. Defying them, she takes an internship at the Brill Building, the epicenter of a new sound called rock and roll.

The author is Cynthia Weil, a member of the Rock and Roll and Songwriters Halls of Fame, as well as the multi-Grammy winning songwriter of classic songs like “On Broadway,” “We Gotta Get Out of This Place,” “You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feeling” (the most performed song of the 20th century). This is her first novel.

Click to request an eGalley or to read an excerpt!

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A Death-Struck Year by Makiia Lucier

Link to this review by flemtastic tagged coming of agehistorical fiction

Just after the end of World War I, seventeen-year old Cleo is frustrated at being sent to a boarding school because her older brother (her guardian) and his wife are in San Francisco for six weeks. Then the school and all public institutions close because of the contagious Spanish Influenza, which has been ravaging the East Coast. Cleo returns to her house alone. She decides to help out by volunteering for the Red Cross. Soon she is in the middle of efforts to care for thousands of ill citizens. Luckily she’s helped out by a dashing, injured medical student named Edmund.

Why I picked it up: It was highly recommended by a librarian friend who reads 400+ books a year.  If she tells me something is good, I trust her.

Why I finished it: It was horrible to hear that 700,000 Americans died of the Spanish influenza. It was largely an East Coast problem until soldiers brought it to the West Coast as they returned from war. 

There are riveting scenes. In one, the dead and dying surround Cleo in a converted movie theater where seats have been removed to make room for patients. She has to comb residential neighborhoods one house at a time for families overcome by the flu. Sometimes she finds bodies, other times she discovers three to four family members who cannot walk or help one another.

It's perfect for: My friend Ernie, who spent time in the Peace Corps. He knows about being in difficult situations and risking his health to make things better for people he doesn’t even know. He struggled with his desire to help people in desperate need, but he still wanted to have a life to go back to. Cleo faces a moral dilemma about whether her fear of infection is a good reason to stop helping at a time when she is much needed. I think Ernie will recognize his own feelings in her experience.

@bookblrb: Cleo volunteers for the Red Cross during the Spanish Influenza epidemic. She’s helped by a dashing medical student.

Star Wars: Jedi Academy Return of the Padawan (Book 2) by Jeffrey Brown

It's time to return to middle school in a galaxy far, far away....After surviving his first year at Jedi Academy, Roan Novachez thought his second year would be a breeze. He couldn't have been more wrong. Roan feels like he's drifting apart from his friends, and it's only made worse when Roan discovers he's not the amazing pilot he thought he'd be. When the school bullies take him under their wing, he decides they aren't so bad after all--or are they?

This year, Roan will have to face alien poetry tests, menacing robots, food fights, flight simulation class, online bullies, more lightsaber duels, and worst of all...a girl who is mad at him.

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What Boys Really Want by Pete Hautman

Link to this review by geneambaum tagged coming of ageromance

Adam and Lita have been friends since kindergarten. Lita secretly offers snarky relationship advice online as Miz Fitz. So when Adam starts to write a book about what boys really want, Lita is annoyed. Adam isn’t book smart, he didn’t come up with the idea on his own (she helped), and he’s not a writer. Worse, he’s having some success, and manages to start selling copies at school before he’s even finished the first draft. But the real explosive moment is on the horizon, when Lita figures out how much of Miz Fitz’s advice is in his book.

Why I picked it up: I seem to be on a Pete Hautman kick lately. Plus the title made it sound like a good dad-daughter read aloud, especially with her first middle school Valentine’s Day coming up.

Why I finished it: Loved the high school love triangles. (Or is it a quadrilateral?) Lita tries to help her friend Emily get Dennis’s attention. But Dennis is obsessed with the overly made up new girl, Blair. Blair may or may not be interested in Adam, who is paying too much attention to Blair himself. And Lita seems to be falling for a car-obsessed grease monkey who does have something going with Blair (at least as far as Lita can tell). It was fun to watch her try (and fail) to control everything.

It's perfect for: My daughter’s current English teacher. She’s got a lot of energy and is highly motivated, but she’s got a tradition of “publishing” parties for her students after they finish their projects. If she’s going to use that word, I’d love for her to pass on the lessons that Adam has to face about editing, proof reading, and paying for a print run. (He’s deluded enough to think he can make a lot of money on his book, and it’s fun to watch him have to deal with reality.) The book also provides an entertaining lesson on plagiarizing from the internet, too, that I’m sure some of her students need to understand.

@bookblrb: Adam starts writing a book of relationship advice. Lita, who secretly writes an internet advice column, gets annoyed.

Jumped In by Patrick Flores-Scott

Link to this review by darcy tagged coming of agepoetry

Sam's mom left him two years ago. He'd once lived in Aberdeen, Washington, home of the band Nirvana, but now lives in Des Moines, Washington, with his grandparents. He avoids making friends at his new school and has perfected the art of slacking, doing just enough to get by without being noticed by teachers. Then a new slacker comes to school. Luis is a badass with a scar down his face which he probably got in a gang fight. When Luis and Sam are paired together for a poetry slam, a unique friendship begins to form.

Why I picked it up: My writing mentor, Mary Jane Beaufrand, mentioned on Facebook that she was reading it. When I learned that the story takes place locally, and I saw that Flores-Scott was appearing at University Book Store, I went to see him. The reading wasn't a typical reading. Two teens read the parts (and the poetry!) of Sam and Luis. I was hooked from the beginning and couldn't wait to take the book home and finish it.

Why I finished it: I like poetry and I love the kids who write it. The characters are deep and richly drawn. Luis is a scarred, scary looking kid who goes home and writes poetry that reveals his history and feelings. Sam is struggling with his abandonment but eventually lets down his guard for Luis.

All around them are gangs and the possibility of getting jumped in, the process where a prospective member has to prove him- or herself by taking a beating from the other gang members.

By far, one of my favorite things is the consistency of the characters, even down to Sam's grandparents' bird who greets him with a loud "Goodbye Sam!" every time he enters the house. It's a constant, painful reminder that his mother left.

It's perfect for: Teens who haven't yet realized they are poets.They may consider themselves to be lyric writers who pen lines based on their favorite bands, or write and re-write the actual lyrics to songs they love on book covers and folders, only to balk when the poetry unit comes up every spring at school. Between the original poetry and the near-constant presence of Nirvana, this book presents the idea that song lyrics and music equal poetry. Jumped In should be assigned reading for all ninth grade language arts classes.

@bookblrb: Two slackers in an Des Moines, Washington, high school are paired together for a poetry slam.

OCD Love Story by Corey Ann Haydu

Link to this review by darcy tagged coming of ageromance

Bea suffers from obsessive-compulsive disorder. When she meets Beck, a guy with OCD at a support group, she starts to fall in love. The problem is she's already stalking another guy.

Why I picked it up: Great title. I wanted to hear more about a relationship where both parties had OCD.

Why I finished it: I was surprised in every chapter by Bea's chutzpah. She is obsessed with a local musical duo who see the same therapist she does. She starts arriving early so she can eavesdrop on their sessions and writes about them in her notebook. Then she begins trailing them and learns where they live. Her OCD kicks in and she can't rest until she goes by their house daily to see that everything is okay. By the time she meets Beck at her support group and witnesses his struggles with body image and obsessive gym visits, I couldn't put it down. I wanted to see how they could make such a difficult relationship work.

I also appreciated Bea’s best friend, Lish, who applied some tough love and ratted out her spying to Austin, one of the musicians. I haven't seen many best friends in fiction who would do what she did. At first Bea felt betrayed, but as a reader, I could see that Lish was really doing what was best to help Bea get better.

It's perfect for: Fans of the movie Dirty, Filthy Love where the characters are both dealing with heavy OCD issues and Tourette's Syndrome. The movie and the book are both very touching in the way they present fragile people opening themselves up to love and the possibility of broken hearts. The supporting characters in both have unique issues like skin picking, hand washing and hair plucking.

@bookblrb: Bea meets Beck at an OCD support group and starts to fall in love even though she’s stalking someone else.

The Fantastic Family Whipple by Matthew Ward

Link to this review by geneambaum tagged coming of agehumor

Right from the day he was born, Arthur Whipple (11) was a disappointment to his world record-setting family. The rest of them were all born on March 1st, including the octuplets, and together they hold the record for Most Coincidental Birth Dates. Even the youngest of his brothers and sisters hold multiple records, yet Arthur can’t seem to achieve even one. When one of his brothers is attempting the Longest Continuous Time Playing an Accordion, Arthur thinks it will be easy to break the record for the Longest Time Without Sleeping. (He somehow falls asleep despite the noise.)

But Arthur is a great kid. He saves his sister from dying beneath the World’s Largest Piece of French Toast Ever Made. (He has to stop his attempt at the Longest Time Hopping on One Foot to pull her out from under the monstrosity.) And after his family’s record-breaking cake is sabotaged at their birthday bash, he’s the only one who believes his friend, former gangster and Whipple family chef Sammy “The Spatula” Smith, is innocent. Arthur sets off to find the real culprits.

Why I picked it up: I saw it talked up by its editor at Book Expo America last year.

Why I finished it: The records are hilariously ubiquitous. The Whipple butler is the World’s Strongest German, their animal trainer, the World’s Hairiest Man, rides the World’s Largest Indian Elephant, and Sammy Smith serves only record-breaking meals. All of Arthur’s siblings are geniuses, from a twelve-year-old brain surgeon to a budding entomologist who just found the Largest Common Housefly Ever Recorded to renowned artists. Arthur is simply too normal. He tries his best, but, as his father reminds him, it’s better to be the best. His one hope is to find the criminals behind the birthday party calamity and prove Sammy’s innocence, but to do so he has to go up against a record-setting detective.

Readalikes: All the way through this I kept thinking Arthur needed to read The Recordsetter Book of World Records, which proves everyone can be the best at something, even if it is just for the Most Bananas Fit Inside a Pair of Pants While Wearing Them.

@bookblrb: After a record-setting birthday cake is sabotaged, Arthur sets out to clear his friend’s name and find the culprits.

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